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4Kids and the Manga Problem PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 06 March 2006 17:00
I think nearly every anime site on the 'net has picked this one up, so this may not be news to you, but I was having a think about 4Kids CEO Al Khan's assertion that manga is a distribution "problem" rather than a distribution "solution", and what he says just doesn't add up to me. In case you've missed it, ICv2 News has a panel report from New York Comic Con which contains Khan's comments:
"I think manga is a problem because we're in a culture that is not a reading culture. Kid's today don't read, they read less today. In every survey, we find that they're watching more television, they're on the Internet more, and that content, although being king, is very disposable."
ICv2's report has more, including a good response from Dan Brown, Editorial Director of Pantheon Books, and it's worth a read - but let's take a look at Kahn's comments. Firstly, it's important to realise what 4Kids is - they're a merchandising company, and not an anime company in the same sense as ADV or Geneon. The anime titles they've acquired haven't been picked up for their own sakes, they've been picked up because of the merchandising potential that comes with them. The real money in shows like Pokémon and Mew Mew Power isn't in the TV broadcast, it's in using those broadcasts as a way to raise the profile of the property with kids & as leverage to get them to buy action characters, card games, and whatever else they can think of to link with the shows.

One piece of merchandise that's notable for its absence from 4Kids' usual lineup is - you guessed it - manga. But if reading (manga or anything else) is such a minority pursuit, as Kahn suggests, why is it a problem for 4Kids? They don't sell it, so it's not like falling sales will affect 4Kids' bottom-line - if anything, it should mean there's more money available for kids to spend on the products that 4Kids does sell.

Except that most people tracking sales of manga and other forms of graphic novel, including ICv2, agree that sales in that segment of the market are on the increase. Perhaps the "manga problem" for 4Kids is that more kids are reading than they'd like to admit - and they're reading products that 4Kids doesn't supply. Just a thought.
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